Covid-free Christmas: How to keep the virus out of your bubble

Some of the UK’s top doctors have shared their safety tips on making sure Britons have both a safe and a merry Christmas.

At a Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) Christmas event, hosted by TV presenter Kate Garraway, they advised handwashing, ventilation and masks as some of the best ways to stay safe.

Here’s what you need to know.

– Follow the guidelines to reduce your risk

Dr Chris Van Tulleken, infectious disease specialist at University College London Hospital and presenter of children’s TV show Operation Ouch, said think of your day like a game of Russian roulette.

He told Garraway, whose husband Derek Draper became very seriously ill with the disease: “If we think of a standard day as a bit like a game of Russian roulette but there are many, many chambers in the gun.

“What you want is as few bullets in that gun as possible.

“Every time you don’t wash your hands, or you stand within two metres of someone, or you don’t wear your mask, or you occupy a confined space for a prolonged period of time, it is like you are putting another bullet in the gun.”

-Don’t be afraid to stand out

Dr Van Tulleken said the virus had in part been able to spread because of the national taboo over making a scene.

“This is a virus that has in part spread through our national fear of embarrassment, our reluctance to refuse to shake hands, to hug, our fear of seeming neurotic or prissy or self-obsessed,” he said.

“I think everyone has to adopt their own personal tactic to head off all of this.”

Dr Van Tulleken added that once people feel like they have blown one safety measure, they abandon all others as well.

Comparing it to a dieter giving up after one chocolate bar, he said: “(If you take one risk) it shouldn’t mean you abandon everything else you’re doing, you should double down on every other precaution.”


-Learn from other cultures

Dr Sarah Filson, infectious diseases and microbiology specialist registrar doctor at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north-west London, praised other communities for adapting their celebrations during the pandemic.

She told the RSM event: “I think there are things we can learn from some of the other communities that have had special festivals during lockdowns like Eid and Diwali.

“These communities have actually adapted and worked really well in order to reduce the amount they interact with other people.

Dr Filson said measures such as booking times at temples and mosques rather than entire congregations going at once, and celebrating as a family rather than in the community, had helped limit Covid-19 spread.

-Try to make homes Covid-safe

Dr Filson said keeping homes well ventilated, thorough handwashing and maintaining a two-metre distance would all help with limiting spread.


“The reality is that it is a disease that doesn’t care about that fact that it is Christmas,” she said.

“It’s all the little things that make the risk of transmission much smaller and I think that’s really important.”

– Diagnosed with Covid during Christmas? Ride it out with your bubble

If you start showing coronavirus symptoms while staying at a relative’s house, it might be best to stay put, Dr Clare Gerada said.

Dr Gerada, medical director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, told the RSM event: “My sense if you get this and you’re all ill over Christmas, you just have to sit it out with each other as a bubble.”

She advised those who are ill to try to drink as much fluids as possible and invest in an oxygen monitor that can be bought very cheaply online.

“It’s much better than a thermometer, (oxygen saturation) is a much more important measure than temperature, than blood pressure, than anything,” she said.


Dr Gerada also recommended plenty of chicken soup.

– Have a very merry Christmas

“Have as much fun as possible,” Dr Gerada said.

“I think people are going to be very sensible.

“I really hope they enjoy themselves and I hope the children enjoy themselves because the children have had a bad enough year as it is, with their school disruption to not being able to see their friends.”

She added: “I hope the kids really have a good time and go out in the park and ride that new bicycle they got on Christmas day but shhh, don’t tell them I told you that.”